Bashing a Jesus movie is tricky. Two examples of how tricky it is come from my reviews of Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and The Passion of the Christ in 2004.
I reviewed Brokeback Mountain as a beautifully done version of an average love story. Make the movie about lesbians, and no one takes notice. I left the theater and told the studio representative that it was pretty good. When pushed, I said it was just OK. The largely gay crowd standing around the lobby took exception to my comments. Many were quite irritated. The irritation felt like, "You don't like my movie, you don't like me."
Of course that's not the case.
I offended many Christians with my review of The Passion of the Christ. Director Mel Gibson did not connect me to Jesus the man. There were no scenes to show his humanity or his love of people. We saw the crucifixion of Christ from start to finish in most brutal fashion. So to the nonbeliever, The Passion of the Christ had the same flavor as a chop-and-slash horror flick. It was all blood, gore and murder, and little else.
My Christian critics were offended by my take on Gibson's many million dollars of a movie. Few others were.
Please do not be confused. I'm a big fan of Jesus. I just don't like his movies. How much don't I like Jesus movies? I was forced to choose between doing a screening of Non-Stop or Son of God on Tuesday night.
The airplane hijack flick won out. Easily.
Not able to completely avoid Jesus, I caught Son of God on its first showing Thursday night. It was late at night, and I had a hard time staying awake. And not because it was late. The monotone tone of Son of God and its incredibly slow pacing make it hard to watch. Adding to that difficulty is the performance of Diogo Morgado, who plays Jesus. He may be the worst Jesus of all time.
And his movie is probably the worst Jesus movie of all time.
As long as I'm offending people, I might as well keep going. Missing from Son of God is the presence of Jesus' powerful adversary Satan. It leaves a big hole in a three-dimensional story and turns three dimensions into two. Controversy sprung up when someone watching the TV miniseries upon which this is based, thought actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni who plays Satan was made up to look like Barack Obama. I wonder if an actor with looks resembling Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush would have even been noticed?
I digress. Son of God has bigger flaws than a controversy over the looks of Satan.
I have serious trouble believing Jesus had perfect teeth, a perfect body and Hollywood model looks. But no one really knows. So it is possible that the historical Jesus was a hunk. The only positive I can say about Morgado is that he's possibly the prettiest Jesus of all time.
Pretty is one thing. Acting another. Every line or group of lines delivered by the ... (long pause) ... actor ... (longer pause) ... goes something ... (even longer pause) ... like ... (long even longer pause) ... this. Not just one or two lines, or a comment or two, but every line.
Worse, those pulled straight from the Bible are delivered with zero sincerity. But that pretty much sums up Son of God. All the expected ingredients are present, but the paint-by-numbers delivery of the product and the sincerity of that delivery leaves lots to be desired.
A big problem for Jesus movies is the impossible task of coming up with a fresh version of the birth, life, death, resurrection and message of Jesus. We've all either read the book or are familiar enough with the story to not have to read it.
Son of God fixes part of the predictability by doing many events in the life of the Jesus in an order most do not recognize. It is also beautifully done. Director Christopher Spencer and the producers get their movie by taking a lot of the footage from their Emmy-nominated television miniseries The Bible, adding scenes that didn't make the series and -- presto -- a big-screen movie.
A big money-making big-screen movie.
The target audience is obvious. Churches are buying up whole theaters so their congregations can see the film. Individual believers will be packing up their families and heading out to see Son of God in the next week or two or three.
The worst Jesus movie of all time or not, Son of God no doubt is going to do very well.
Director: Christopher Spencer
Stars: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Amber Rose Revah, Darwin Shaw, Adrian Schiller
Mr. Movie rating: 1 star
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.